Thomas Rudolph (civil rights activist)

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Thomas Rudolph

Thomas Rudolph (born February 21, 1963 in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz again)) is a German civil rights activist . In the 1980s he belonged to the opposition in the GDR . He founded the Gerechtigkeit Leipzig working group and, in collaboration with other civil rights groups, made a significant contribution to overcoming the SED rule in public actions in Leipzig by organizing mass protests .


Childhood and youth

He grew up in an Evangelical Lutheran family as the eldest of two children. His parents belonged to the technical intelligentsia and were employed in mechanical engineering.

As a result of the rejection of the state-expected confession in the form of the obligatory youth consecration and further individual refusals against the indoctrinal socialist school system, he was denied the opportunity to attend an extended secondary school (the GDR grammar school). However, he managed to pass the humanistic Abitur in 1981 at one of the few church high schools, the proseminar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony in Moritzburg. This degree has not been widely recognized by the state as an entrance qualification for state colleges and universities. Rudolph then started working for several months as a rubber press in a shift system at the VEB tire factory. For his commitment to the hygienic and other working conditions in production, he was elected FDGB shop steward by the workforce .

From 1982 to 1983 he performed his 18-month state military service in the only legal way of refusal: as a construction soldier without a weapon as part of the National People's Army. In view of the prison sentence, he was unable to bring himself to a total conscientious objection to military service. From autumn 1983 to 1988 he studied theology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and then at the Church University Theological Seminar Leipzig (ThSL), where his interest was primarily in historical and philosophical questions.

Political-subversive engagement up to the 1989 revolution

“Since the end of the 1970s, he was a representative of a young community among the volunteers of the youth pastoral office of Karl-Marx-Stadt in the internal church discussion processes following the expatriation of Wolf Biermann and the self-immolation of Oskar Brüsewitz and the protests against the introduction an alternative military service in the GDR schools. He endeavored to sensitize Christian youth work to political issues and participated in the preparation of the first decades of peace. In connection with a church-independent peace group that he co-founded in 1981. a. dealt with the East-West conflict and the question of observing human rights, he came into the focus of the State Security Service at an early stage. The group was crushed by the state in 1982. "

In 1984, Rudolph took part in a peace group in Halle, which consisted mainly of theology students. Together with friends, he refused to take part in the civil defense training that is compulsory for students at government institutions.

In 1987 he and friends decided to openly oppose the SED state. They founded the civil and human rights group Working Group Justice Leipzig . For this, Rudolph worked full-time as one of their spokesmen from 1988. After oppositional groups were arrested in East Berlin in January 1988 in connection with the Luxemburg-Liebknecht demonstration , he founded the Saturday Circle , which sought to network the opposition groups in the GDR and from which the first East Germany-wide working group on the situation of the Human rights emerged in the GDR .

After the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig in September and in October also in Dresden and other GDR cities brutal attacks on arrested demonstrators, Christoph Wonneberger , Kathrin Walther and Thomas Rudolph drafted the proposal for an appeal against violence : “Respond to peacefulness not by force! We are one people! ". On the weekend before October 9, 1989, the text was revised by three Leipzig subversive groups, passed as a resolution and printed in at least 25,000 copies. On Monday, the leaflet was distributed not only before the peace prayer around Leipzig's Nikolaikirche , but throughout the city center. The text was read out in several Leipzig churches. The decisive Monday demonstration with well over 70,000 participants was peaceful for the first time.

“The departure applicants had nothing more to lose here, so they were much more willing to take risks, and that's why they were our allies, especially at the beginning of 1988, because they demonstrated with us, unlike many other GDR citizens. […] The most important thing was to show that protest is possible, and we always did it around the Nikolaikirche because we wanted to create a culmination point, similar to what Solidarność did around the Brigittenkirche in Gdansk we thought up about the Nikolaikirche a year and a half beforehand. And the concept ultimately worked. […] We had limited goals: we just wanted to overthrow the SED Politburo or the government, whatever you want to call it, and replace it with another. Since we had such limited goals, there is virtually no civil rights activist in Leipzig who is dissatisfied with the outcome. "

- Interview with Thomas Rudolph

In 1989, the civil and human rights groups Working Group Human Rights and Working Group Gerechtigkeit Leipzig (Leipzig Working Group) largely gave rise to the Peace and Human Rights Leipzig Initiative , of which Rudolph was one of the founders there. This organization already appeared exemplary to the two subversive groups: “The initiative has taken to overthrow the SED, even if it did not say so at the beginning.” In addition to Werner Fischer and Gerd Poppe , Rudolph became one of three GDR spokesmen for the Initiative Peace and Human Rights (IFM) elected. At the Monday demonstration in Leipzig on November 27, 1989, he announced a round table for the GDR - as in Poland and Hungary. He represented the IFM at the round table of the city and the district of Leipzig in the first few months. As an employee of the Leipzig Citizens' Committee , he was committed to the dissolution of the GDR State Security Service.

Work since the unification of Germany

From 1990 to 1994 Rudolph worked as an employee of the Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parliamentary group in the first democratically elected Saxon state parliament in the Federal Republic, first as a press officer and then for the parliamentary group's internal political spokesman, Michael Arnold , as his personal advisor or advisor in the investigative committee - and abuse of power as a result of SED rule .

From August 1991 to the summer of 1994 Rudolph worked as honorary archive manager of the research center on the crimes of Stalinism in the GDR within the framework of the IFM eV in Dresden. Since 1998 he has been involved in the archive of the Initiative Peace and Human Rights Saxony eV (IFM Archive Saxony) on the board and in research.


  • Thomas Rudolph, Oliver Kloss , Rainer Müller , Christoph Wonneberger (eds.): Way in the uprising. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from August 1987 to December 1989. Vol. 1, Leipzig, Araki, 2014, ISBN 978-3-941848-17-7 , p. 361 f.
  • Thomas Rudolph, Frank Wolfgang Sonntag, Peter Grimm (eds.): Way in the uprising. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from August 1987 to December 1989. Vol. 2, Leipzig, Araki, 2017, ISBN 978-3-941848-27-6 .
  • Thomas Mayer: The head of the ant transport. Intelligent and unruly - Thomas Rudolph, once an important head of civil rights activists, today a social worker. In: Ders .: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution. 18 portraits of pioneers from Leipzig. (= Series of publications by the Saxon State Commissioner for the Stasi Records. Volume 10). Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-374-02712-5 , pp. 30-37 or in: Leipziger Volkszeitung (LVZ) from June 28-29, 2008.
  • Hermann Geyer: Nikolaikirche, Mondays at five. The political services of the turning point in Leipzig . Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007 (Universität Leipzig, Habil.-Schr. 2006), ISBN 978-3-534-18482-8 , pp. 16, 99, 111f., 116f., 131, 144, 161, 286 table of contents .
  • Reinhard Bernhof : The Leipzig protocols . Halle, projekte verlag, 2004, p. 32 as well as autumn marathon - interiors of a revolution. Leipzig, 2006, ISBN 3-938442-13-1 , reading sample .
  • Ehrhart Neubert : History of the opposition in the GDR 1949–1989. Berlin, Christoph Links Verlag, 2nd edition 1998 (Federal Agency for Political Education, Bonn 2000) ISBN 3-86153-163-1 , pp. 725–726, 783, 862.
  • Christian Dietrich, Uwe Schwabe (ed.): Friends and enemies. Documents on the prayers for peace in Leipzig between 1981 and October 9, 1989. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 1994, ISBN 3-374-01551-4 Book on the Internet , viewed on March 1, 2016.
  • Sylvia Kabus : Nineteen eighty-nine. Psychogram of a city. Beucha, Sax Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-86729-041-8 , p. 166 f. and 170.
  • Peter Wensierski : The uncanny ease of the revolution. How a group of young people from Leipzig dared to rebel in the GDR. Munich, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2017, ISBN 978-3-421-04751-9 . [The Leipzig Initiativgruppe Leben (IGL) is at the center of this presentation , but people from the Justice Working Group were also included in the plot.]

Web links

Commons : Thomas Rudolph  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Film documentary

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Rudolph, Oliver Kloss, Rainer Müller, Christoph Wonneberger (eds.): Way in the uprising. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from 1987–1989. Leipzig, Araki, 2014, ISBN 978-3-941848-17-7 , p. 361.
  2. Justice working group, human rights working group and environmental protection working group: Appeal of organized resistance to nonviolence on October 9, 1989
  3. Thomas Rudolph in an interview with Monika Martin: Dare to freedom! Monday, September 4, 1989: Monday demo in Leipzig , in: Deutsche Welle (DW) of September 4, 1999.
  4. Thomas Rudolph in an interview in 1990 and 1992 in: Hagen Findeis / Detlef Pollack / Manuel Schilling: Die Entzauberung des Politischen. What happened to the politically alternative groups in the GDR? Interviews with former leading representatives, Leipzig, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1994, ISBN 3-374-01522-0 , pp. 192–205, p. 195.
  5. ^ Archive Citizens Movement Leipzig eV: Thomas Rudolph's speech in an excerpt as an audio file towards the end of the page.
  6. See Michael Arnold : Minority vote of MP Arnold on the final report of the special committee of the Saxon state parliament to investigate abuse of office and power as a result of the SED rule of June 20, 1994 on printed matter 1/4773 of the Saxon state parliament; Attachments to minority votes ; Annex T1 ; Appendix T12 ; see. Also: Final report of the special committee to investigate abuse of office and power as a result of SED rule on the first subject of investigation, printed matter 1/4773 on printed matter 1/213 of the Saxon state parliament in the 1st electoral period of May 20, 1994.
  7. See Research Center on the Crimes of Stalinism: Forschungszentrum aktuell, No. 1 , No. 2 and No. 3 (1992).
  8. See Thomas Rudolph in an interview with Monika Martin: Freedom dare! Monday, September 4, 1989: Monday demonstration in Leipzig , in: Deutsche Welle (DW) of September 4, 1999; Thomas Rudolph: About Hans Modrow in Deutsche Welle 1999.